I was at Sur La Table the other day for a Vitamix event they were having. Of course while I was there I had a few other things to check out. One thing I've been thinking about is purchasing a kind of knife many people have never even heard of before, a nakiri knife. I am thinking of buying one, and I thought you might find it interesting to learn a little about them and about what I found when I compared two of the most popular ones.
What Is a Nakiri Knife Anyway?
The nakiri knife is a Japanese was specially designed as a vegetable knife. They are double-beveled (so they have an edge that’s ground from both sides of the blade) which is good for both right- and left-handed cooks. This is normally a characteristic of Western knives not Japanese knives (which normally have a single bevel).
Nakiris are characterized by their flat profiles and blunt, squared off tips. Those blunt-nosedtips make them a little safer to use. This design makes these knives ideal for push cutting and chopping but not for rock cutting. (Although one of the ones I looked at did combine these characteristics with a curved blade which does enable rocking).
Sometimes these knives are ground to a very fine straight edge instead of a beveled edge. That makes it razor-sharp and allows it to keep it’s edge longer.
Why Would I Ever Want One?
Another knife? Do I really need another knife in my kitchen? OK, granted, I wouldn't put the nakairi in the group of "must have" knives. But, depending on the type of cooking you do, you may find it a great addition to your stable. In certain applications it really offers some great benefits over other knives. Just a few of them are:
- The blade is very flat which allows it to cut super-thin, very even slices. It's almost like a mandoline in your hand.
- As I mentioned above, it's really more of a "chopping" knife than a "rocking" knife. It's straight edge allows you to cut straight through the food all the way down flat against the cutting board.
- Because of it's design and sharpness it can even work well on delicate vegetables like tomatoes. I don't know about you, but I often have to turn to a serrated knife to cut softer vegetables to allow me to cut through the skin or peel without smashing and turning the entire vegetable into mush. But it doesn't slice very thinly.
Nakiri. Santoku. What's the Difference?
A lot of people confuse the santoku and the nakiri. They look similar in some ways. They are both primarily veggie knives. But the santoku is a more versatile knife. The santoku also has a somewhat curved blade edge - as opposed to the straight edge found on the nakiri. So, it can be used for chopping (up and down motion) and also for a rocking motion. In fact, the word "santoku" (loosely translated) means "knife of three tasks" or "knife of three virtues" - slicing, dicing, and mincing. The word "nakiri" (sorry, again loosely translated) means "leaf cutting" (think veggies).
Wusthof vs. Global
The two primary nakiris I looked at were the Wusthof and the Global. I have to admit I went in specifically to look and feel the Wusthof, but the Global one really got my attention for several reasons.
I looked at the two brands’ 7” nakiris. The two knives seem to be almost identical in a lot of ways - especially the blades. But when I looked closer, I noticed a few things. First, when I held the two next to each other it was obvious that the Global’s blade was longer (which I thought was weird since they are both sold as 7” knives). The salesperson and I pulled out a tape measure and sure enough, the Global’s blade is a true 7” blade edge while the Wusthof measured only 6.25”.
A second difference is that the Global’s blade is actually curved. Nakiris are typically straight-edged, but tho sone has a nice nice curve to it. This facilitates more of a rocking motion when cutting - which is perfect for vegetables. In my opinion that makes this knife a bit of a hybrid between the nakiri and the santoku.
A third major difference I noticed (and this is common throughout the Global and Wusthof lines) was that the bolster (the point where the blade meets the handle) is much more pronounced/steeper grade than the Global. The Global knife has a more gradual transition from handle to blade. In fact the knife is actually one single piece of steel (vs. The Wusthof’s single piece of steel (“full tang”) with a handle attached on both sides - which is a fine, quality design also). After practicing on a some veggies at the store, the Global’s gradual transition felt much better. I can see where it would be much more comfortable when cutting for a longer period of time. BTW - they were both priced the same. So for now, in my opinion, the Global nakiri edges out the Wusthof. (Get it? "Edges out". LOL)
Both of these knives are “hollow edged”. That means they have those little indentations that help food to release from the blade, as opposed to getting stuck on it. Those indentations are actually called “kullens” in case you care. :) As you cut they create small air pockets which help keep foods from sticking.
With all that said, remember a knife will feel different to different people due to hand size, shape, straight, etc. I’m just telling you my personal thoughts. (And I have always been a Wusthof lover.) To be honest, I'm not sure if I will even buy a nakiri or just live with the knives that I've been happy with for so long. We'll see. But I did want to try them and see what the differences were. And next time I'll at least throw a Shun nakiri into the mix as well.
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